Recall Roulette: The Flawed System Meant to Protect Your Family

Government says some retailers, consumers, online resellers not doing enough about dangerous products.
8:13 | 11/22/14

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Transcript for Recall Roulette: The Flawed System Meant to Protect Your Family
He's got one of the most famous first names in America. The man behind craigslist. Tonight, "20/20" goes undercover about potentially dangerous products that have been recalled. Why doesn't craigslist remove them? Brian Ross has the story. Mr. Newmark, Brian Ross, ABC news, how are you? Reporter: The face of this 61-year old San Francisco man may not be well known. But his name is, at least his first name. It's Craig, Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist, the online site that in less than two decades has revolutionized classified advertising. And has made Craig a very wealthy man, and he boasts of using technology for the public good. I've been encountered by Brian Ross for ABC news. Reporter: When we showed up to ask him about allegations that his craigslist might actually be harming the public good, he refused to answer our questions. How do you respond to that? Brian, how have you been doing? It's been a long time since we've spoken. Reporter: This is what Craig Newmark did not want to talk about with "20/20." The bumbo baby booster seats recalled for safety defects, but still for sale on craigslist. The recalled wooden storage chests that can trap children inside, still for sale on craigslist. The recalled dishwashers that can burst into flames, for sale on craigslist. All despite pleas from the government to do what others do to block their sales. They do not and will not do it to date. Reporter: And what do you say about that? I think it's morally irresponsible. Reporter: As the father of two children, and the newly appointed chairman of the consumer product safety commission, Elliott Kaye is on a tear about unsafe products that were officially recalled but remain in American homes, responsible for horrible accidents. They're devastating. I live in fear every day of that happening to my children. Reporter: Kaye says manufacturers are to blame for not doing enough to get the word out about the recalls, but so too, he says, is craigslist for allowing recalled items to be posted for sale. So they're selling or advertising items, posting items that could kill children? Correct. And it is illegal to sell a recalled item. Reporter: But it happens all the time, as we saw in a "20/20" undercover investigation, conducted with ABC stations across the country. In Chicago, WLS TV found this woman who was appalled to learn the dehumidifier she was trying to sell was under recall. The thought of passing it on to somebody else, and it could have possibly caused a fire, is devastating to even think of. Reporter: In Charlotte, WSOC TV. So have these been recalled? No. Reporter: Listing a recalled baby monitor and a bumbo baby seat. When I tell you they're recalled, what do you think? I feel bad for selling them. Reporter: In Indianapolis, WRTV reporters used craigslist to find one of those recalled lane wooden chests with the sticky lock that has trapped children inside, killing them. Is there anything wrong with it? Other than the fact you can't open it? There's nothing wrong with it. Reporter: Our investigation found that Americans stand little chance in the game of what could be called recall roulette. Of the tens of millions of items recalled for safety defects every year, very, very few are widely publicized and therefore turned in or fixed. In some cases as low as 5% actually accounted for. In Utah, the parents of Addisyn Groesbeck say the recall system failed them. Their little girl fractured her skull and suffered a brain injury when she was six months old. Her doctor bluntly said she was as close to death as a person could be. Reporter: Addisyn's father had put her in that popular bumbo baby booster seat, placed on the kitchen counter at breakfast time and she somehow fell out. Hit this door extremely hard. Hard enough to make it come up and then was there on the floor, screaming. Reporter: Only as they prayed for Addisyn's recovery did the family learn the bumbo they bought at a store had been under recall, and supposedly fixed with a warning label added about accidents when used on an elevated surface. They say they never heard about the possible danger and did not notice the warning on the back and are now suing the company. ? Next time won't you sing with me ? Good job. Reporter: Did you have any idea that you had an unsafe product? No, no. Reporter: You never heard anything about it? No. We wouldn't have used it. I would have thrown it away. Reporter: The company that makes the bumbo has since added a safety belt and put videos warning of the danger online. And say it's up to the parents to use their product safely. These are all recalled products. Reporter: At the heart of the problem, according to the women who run the safety group kids in danger, is the recall system itself. It's all voluntary for the manufacturers of products found to have safety defects. There's no requirement that they do advertising. There's no requirement that they get back a certain number of products. Reporter: No requirement at all for any of that? No. It's their responsibility. It's their dangerous product that they put into the marketplace. And they should not rest until they get all of them back. Reporter: And the consumer product safety commission says another chance to prevent accidents is lost because craigslist has refused to do what Amazon and Ebay have done to filter out dangerous, recalled items. So Ebay does it. Amazon does it. Craigslist? Does not do it. Will not do it. Has not done it. But should do it. Reporter: Craigslist says it has an automated system to help prevent the posting of recalled items. But it doesn't always work. When we tried to post a recalled bumbo baby booster seat on Amazon, it was automatically blocked. On Ebay, our ad was pulled off line a day after we posted it, citing the safety recall. But on craigslist, no problem when we posted the potentially dangerous bumbo seat. Craigslist says it does not control what is posted by sellers. I think it is morally irresponsible. Reporter: How do you respond to that? Brian, how have you been doing? It's been a long time since we've spoken. Reporter: I want to ask you about that specific allegation. I am not a spokesperson for craigslist, nor have I been in management since the year 2000. Reporter: Are you unable to answer these questions? I'd also like the contact information for your news director. Andure producer, please. Reporter: In a written statement, craigslist says it notifies its users that recalled products can't be sold. On the posting page, and here on a 22-line long list of prohibited categories. So who looks at this. I'm certain the lawyer who drafted it looked at it a number of times before it was posted, but beyond that, this is the type of different effort that I'm talking about. Reporter: So this doesn't do it? I don't think so. Evidenced by the fact that there are still products every day. Reporter: Again and again, our ABC station partners including reporters in Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Lafayette, Louisiana, Austin, Texas, and Tyler, Texas, found recalled, potentially dangerous bumbo seats for sale on craigslist, the ones without the safety strap added. An outrage to the parents of little Addyson, who almost died in a bumbo seat. It's ridiculous. I think it's criminal. Reporter: But try as we might, Craig Newmark, who talks about serving the public good, did not want to talk about the recalled potentially deadly products for sale on the site he founded. I appreciate your time. You guys have to do this kind of thing. Reporter: We want to get your answers, your side of the story. Is it not possible to get your side of the story? Good to meet you, thank you. Reporter: Craig, you don't want to speak about these allegations at all?

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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